Flickers. Shadow. Monsters.They hide in plain sight. Disguised and distorted, but I still see them.They are ugly things. Not in appearance, as one would suspect monsters to be; but in the way they are created.Tainted by cruelty, stained by hatred, and ripped apart by many. Only to be put back together in another’s design; by greedy, bloodstained hands. Stitched together into a kaleidoscope of broken dreams and lost innocence.They are called monsters, yes. But not of free will. The ones who pull the strings, the puppeteers, those are the true monsters.They hide just like these so-called monsters. They could be anyone.A lover. A teacher. A leader. Or a preacher.No one is safe.It is hard to find them. To pin down who is real and who is not. They wear masks. Not made of porcelain, steel, or gold. Instead, they are made of illusions.Fake emotions that are conveyed by a certain twist of the lips. An arched eyebrow or crinkled skin. The way they hold themselves as if composing a performance. It all combines to form an almost perfect mask.An almost perfect mask because no matter how hard they try, they can never hide what’s in their eyes.A gleam or a glint. Something calculating and maniacal at the same time. Like a fox infected with a mind-twisting disease. Insanity hid like a blade in silk.They are the true monsters.The ones who are villains who play the victim while their victims are forced to be the villains.They are the hands who pull the strings. The ones behind the curtain. The voices from the abyss.They suck you in with pretty words and dreams filled with hope. They give you promises never meant to be kept. Then when you are content and indebted, hand you the silken rope from which has been woven together by honeyed words and beautiful lies. A spiderweb ensnaring the unsuspecting fly.With this silken rope, they finally tell you the truth. It’s either you or the ones you love.Bound by a weight even atlas couldn’t bear, they tie the knot and hang themselves from the hands of the puppeteers.Yes, I see them. I see this.Corrupted and warped, I see them.Broken and scattered, I see them.Beautifully cracked and mesmerizingly haunted, I see them.And I reach out.I reach out toward these ugly things. These creatures without purpose and I highlight their flaws. I take the monstrous pieces that cut and damage any who touch, and I smooth them out and fill in the cracks with gold and patch the holes with precious gems. I forge them anew. Monsters though they may be, ugly they need not be. And I rejoice!For soon a day will come when these creatures, these monsters who were broken then cast away by ignorant and uncaring hands, fight back!Oh, the look on the puppeteers’ faces when the innocents they crushed and twisted into hideous monsters rise more splendid and beautiful than any before them.They will wear their scars with no shame. They will hold their heads up high, unafraid of the light. They will rise reborn greater than any Phoenix and brighter than any star.They will be monsters no more. And they will not be seen as victims.No, they will be examples. Proof that out there, in a world filled with shadows and danger, there will always be a light to guide. A lifeboat among the raging seas. An oasis in an endless desert.So yes, I see them.I see them and all they will become.I see heroes.And I smile.